All relationships are hard work. To be there for someone takes time and constant vigilance, making sure you know what’s going on in their lives and ensuring you are there for them when they need you. It’s a similar story when you’re dealing with journalists.
This case study will hopefully show how a relationship can be forged with journalists and how easy it is to nurture that friendship by just ensuring that you are there when they need you and ready for action.
When making friends, it is first important that you are confident and sure of yourself. Knowing your client and their commercial goals remains a key starting point in any campaign. By having an idea of who to target and to whom we could give the most value, you can target those journalists who would be interested in a friendship. There is very little point in trying to make friends with someone who you have nothing in common with.
In this case, our client wanted to raise brand awareness among a B2B community, and therefore we somehow had to connect with business journalists who were interested in hearing from a B2B money saving expert.
With the General Election fast approaching, this was the perfect time to start crafting reactive comment, getting a name out there that interested parties could contact for insight and information. We came prepared, having conducted research and compiled a document outlining what the top 7 political parties were promising in terms of saving businesses money on their energy bills.
Gaining initial traction is and was the hardest part. It’s like walking into a playground on your first day of school where no-one knows who you are and no-one is sure if they can trust you. It takes that first kid to come up to you and say “hello” before the rest of the gang follow suit.
So after sending out a press release which covered the research we had done, we had effectively just walked into the playground, and thankfully one or two kids did come over to greet us.
The first challenge we faced was the fact that we were a relatively unknown quantity. Journalists wanted to hear from the likes of Deloitte and KPMG when sourcing comments on what the Election would mean for businesses. In truth, there was very little call for a Bolton-based SME to comment.
The second challenge was that the niche we were targeting, energy policies, was not at the top of the political agenda. The fate of the NHS, the EU referendum and benefit cuts trumped the issues of OFGEM and the ‘Big Six’ Energy Supplier Monopoly, meaning that we had two barriers to overcome before our voice could be heard.
Targeting niche publications worked and progress was made.
After initial success, we found that commenting on political policy was a viable way to grab the attention of journalists. We then looked to expand our circle and pitched pre-election Budget comment. This time the comment was picked up by a different publication, which at the time didn’t seem that impressive, but it was the start of a beautiful friendship. After publishing the comment on Budget Predictions, the initial press release on policy promises was then sent, accepted and used. It took us being reactive to afford us the right to be proactive.
By providing well researched and well written pieces to the journalist, we were helping out a friend who, in turn, was then willing to support us. This was demonstrated by the journalist agreeing to publish a piece publicising the launch of another of our client’s campaigns which had very little to do with the political agenda.
Sometimes it can take a while for people to recognise the value you can give. Responding to every request for comment on the Election (and businesses) meant that, by adapting, we started to see our popularity grow. By being instantly reactive and on hand to help, we made quite a few new friends very quickly and while these relationships may not have lasted, it met our initial goal of raising the brand’s profile among their target audience.
The highlight came when comment from the client was featured in The Guardian, arguably one of the most popular kids in the playground.
As a result of our growing popularity we were in a more confident position to speak with publications who wanted a regular contributor. At the beginning of the campaign we didn’t foresee that we’d eventually have free rein over comment, securing a column on two business-orientated websites. We were seen as a reliable friend, one who would be there without having to be asked.
By putting in a little bit of time every month, we kept the friendship alive.
All of the above occurred before the Election results were even announced. We had successfully made contact with journalists who now knew they could rely on us when the big day came to provide comment straight away. We successfully got coverage as soon as the election results were announced, having to do little more than send an email with comment to our friends.
And it continues, the Queen’s Speech and the official opening of Parliament gave us another opportunity to utilise the relationships we’d built over the last month or two. Our client was also in pole position to provide comments on the recent Summer Budget, which happened to throw up one or two interesting talking points relating to electricity bills and renewable energy subsidies.
So all in all, good relationships are mutual and should be nurtured over time. By staying in touch and supporting each other you will both reap the rewards. What we have demonstrated is that even if your brand has never spoken to the press or had any material published online or in print, it is possible to build up a strong reputation as a leading industry influencer. You just need to be confident and know what you’re talking about.